|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-first General Assembly
8th Meeting (AM)
POTENTIAL OUTER SPACE ARMS RACE, EQUITABLE ACCESS TO SPACE TECHNOLOGIES AMONG ISSUES
AS FOURTH COMMITTEE CONTINUES DEBATE ON PEACEFUL USES OF OUTER SPACE
“While the space age has been marked by fast space technology development, the concern posed by the dangers inherent to an outer space arms race has increased,” Cuba’s representative told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this morning, during its general debate on the peaceful uses of outer space.
She said the right of all States to explore and use outer space for the benefit of humanity was a universally accepted legal principle, but it was a fact that not all countries had equitable access to space technologies. She added that exploration and use of outer space should be based on three principles: preservation of outer space for exclusively peaceful purposes; rejection of plans aimed at arms deployment in outer space; and the need to adopt new monitoring and verification mechanisms of space law.
Echoing those sentiments, the representative of the Russian Federation stressed that it was inadmissible to use outer space for the purposes of an arms stand-off, and voiced concern that only one tool existed to prevent the introduction of arms into outer space.
Some representatives supported the potential establishment of a United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (SPIDER). The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said such a space-based system would benefit all of mankind, especially developing countries frequently stricken by disasters. The proposed platform would contribute to fostering international cooperation and optimizing the efficiency of services for disaster management.
The representative of Germany noted that SPIDER would contribute to satellite-based disaster management and improve prevention capabilities on a global scale. All countries and relevant international and regional organizations would have access to space-based information. SPIDER would work closely with end-users, particularly with developing countries. She strongly supported the creation of SPIDER through contributions from the United Nations budget.
The United States, however, said, although the SPIDER programme deserved consideration, it must be supported by voluntary contributions and must not have an impact on the regular United Nations budget. United States agencies responsible for disaster early warning and mitigation would not contribute resources to SPIDER, should it be established, but their products would still be made available, as they had been in the past.
Many speakers drew attention to the potential benefits space science and technology could have for monitoring Earth’s environment. The representatives of Israel and Iran, both underlining the importance of regional cooperation and sharing of information, mentioned in that regard that the application of space science and technology, such as remote sensing systems, could contribute to improved water resource management and more efficient exploitation of limited arable soil.
In other business, the Committee decided, on the request of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, with Algeria and Morocco concurring, to postpone action on a draft resolution regarding the Question of Western Sahara.
Other speakers included representatives of Colombia, Syria, Kazakhstan, Brazil (on behalf of MERCOSUR), China, India, Nigeria, Ukraine and Chile.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 13 October, to continue consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to conclude its consideration of decolonization issues and to start its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
On decolonization issues, the Committee had before it a draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/61/L.5). By its terms, the Assembly would underline Security Council resolution 1495 (2003), in which the Council expressed its support of the peace plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, as an optimum political solution, on the basis of agreement between the two parties. It would also underline that the parties reacted differently to the plan.
The Assembly would also express its strong, continued support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, in order to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution to the dispute over Western Sahara, and would call upon all the parties and the States of the region to cooperate fully with them. It would also call upon the parties to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in its efforts to solve the problem of the fate of the people unaccounted for, and further call upon the parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law to release without further delay all those held since the start of the conflict.
General Debate on Outer Space Issues
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said she supported the work of the Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education for Latin America and the Caribbean, noting the goal of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), in the context of developing national capacities. Colombia had created the Colombian Space Commission last July to direct national policy on the development and application of space technologies. The Commission included the Vice-President and various ministries in fields related to applications of space technology. Ethical principles should be enshrined in legal instruments to promote peaceful uses of outer space; thus, Colombia supported the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) legal framework, and emphasized that any militarization would run counter to those principles.
On using space activities to improve living conditions, Colombia had organized symposia on using Global Satellite Navigations Systems in the areas of cartography, navigation and agriculture, among others. The country was concerned about an arms race in outer space, as well as pollution with space debris. Colombia remained satisfied, however, that the Legal Subcommittee had agreed that coordination among countries guaranteed equitable access to the geostationary orbit, as it was a limited resource. She called the proclamation of 2007 as the International Heliophysical Year “useful” in focusing attention on international cooperation and diffusing knowledge. Colombia had hosted the fourth Space Conference of the Americas and signed an affiliation agreement with the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs.
HELI KANERVA ( Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the security of space and earth were inextricably linked, and economies and global development were increasingly dependant on space. The benefits of space technology and its applications should contribute to a growth of space activities favourable to sustained economic growth and sustainable development. Conscious of the growing involvement of the international community in outer space activities for development and progress, the Union thought such activities should be developed in a peaceful environment, and an arms race in outer space should be prevented.
She said a space-based system for disaster management support would benefit all of mankind, especially developing countries frequently stricken by such disasters. The proposed COPUOS platform would contribute to fostering international cooperation and optimizing the efficiency of services for disaster management. Noting that the world commercial space industry had risen from $2.1 billion in 1980 to $100 billion in 2004, she said the increasing commercialization of outer space demanded attention and appropriate international and national legal frameworks. Special attention needed to be paid, also, to the increasing pollution of outer space, caused by man-made and natural space debris. She welcomed the progress made in developing space debris mitigation guidelines.
Highlighting examples of Europe’s involvement in important international cooperation, she said the Union was developing its own global satellite navigation system, Galileo, and an initiative called “Global Monitoring for Environment and Security”, which aimed to achieve a common way of harmonizing Earth observation information. In that context, she stressed the importance of the European Space Agency. The Agency had also taken over the development of various European space activities from the common European Strategy for Space. An important milestone would be achieved on 17 October, when Europe’s first polar-orbiting weather satellite would be launched by a joint programme of the European Space Agency and the European Meteorological Satellite Organization.
REBECCA HERNANDEZ TOLEDANO ( Cuba) said, 45 years ago, the first man had been launched into space, thus beginning space exploration. Today’s challenges were greater. “While the space age has been marked by fast space technology development, the concern posed by the dangers inherent to an outer space arms race has increased,” she said. The right of all States to explore and use outer space, for the benefit of all humanity, was a universally accepted legal principle, but it was a fact that not all countries had equitable access to space technologies. As more States were now engaged in space activities, it was all the more urgent to increase bilateral and multilateral cooperation. It was, therefore, of vital importance to increase international cooperation, particularly through technology exchange, under the terms of Assembly resolution 51/122.
She said the geostationary orbit was a limited resource, over which no State or group of States could exercise absolute sovereignty, to the detriment of the sovereign rights of other States. In that regard, she advocated the establishment of legal rules that would promote the rational use of the geostationary orbit by all countries. It was also necessary to facilitate non-discriminatory access to remote-sensing data. Committed to peace, Cuba continued to advance “modestly” in the use of space technology, in areas such as weather forecasts, remote sensing for monitoring fires, solar monitoring, communication and education. It worked for effective cooperation in the region.
She said exploration and use of outer space should be based on three principles: preservation of outer space for exclusively peaceful purposes; rejection of plans aimed at arms deployment in outer space; and the need to adopt new monitoring and verification mechanisms of space law. The Conference on Disarmament should play the leading role in the urgent negotiation of a multilateral agreement on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, in all its aspects. Problems of deforestation, desertification, depletion of the ozone layer, erosion and the arms race continued to increase. “If we want to save our planet, we should tackle all these problems through a close and coordinated cooperation, without discrimination among the countries, in order to achieve an optimum and responsible use of the possibilities that space research and space applications offer,” she said.
RAN GIDOR ( Israel) said that, during the last year, his country had consolidated its links with a host of foreign partners and tried to advance projects that would benefit the international community. Israel had observer status at COPUOS and participated in UNISPACE. It aspired to share its experience and technology with other nations, particularly in the Middle East. Giving an overview of Israel’s history as a space nation, he said, at present, there were five Israeli-made satellites orbiting earth. The aims of the Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development, adopted at UNISPACE III, were laudable and achievable. Recent natural catastrophes had demonstrated the urgency in devoting significantly greater efforts to furthering human understanding of Earth’s environment.
Describing several Israeli research programmes, he said its Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research was working for the advancement of remote sensing, image processing and geographic information system management of Earth’s resources, in order to meet the need for low-cost management information over vast expanses of unsettled lands. The most pressing problems that related to dry lands, such as desertification and climatic change, had recently become a challenge for remote sensing investigations. The Israeli company Elop was developing an advanced hyper-spectral system in the visible and infrared spectral regions with analytical imaging capabilities.
He said his country wholeheartedly supported the COPUOS quest to develop solutions to various water-resource problems and more efficient exploitation of limited arable soil. The Israeli Space Agency and the French Centre National d’Etudes spatiales were working on a satellite called “Vegetation and Environment Monitoring New Micro-Satellite”. Among other programmes, Israel had also initiated one of the world’s leading space research projects on dust storms. His country’s growing contribution to the collective scientific exploration of space was closely related to the degree of its cooperation with other countries and relevant international organizations.
MANAR TALEB ( Syria) said the Committee report had reiterated the importance of UNISPACE III to consolidate the capacity of developing countries in dealing with development challenges, especially in the areas of agriculture, water resource management, illiteracy, education and health services. Implementing UNISPACE III, however, required recognizing both national and regional needs. He noted concern that the scope of the working groups should be diversified, so that plans of action could be developed with well-defined objectives.
Increasing transparency would improve the responsible nature of scientific activities in outer space, he continued. He reiterated the importance of having a large number of developing countries participate in international space initiatives for peaceful purposes, and welcomed United Nations Space Development Programme assistance that would make it possible for them to not only participate in, but benefit from space activities. Syria was concerned, however, that available financial resources remained limited.
He said the Committee report had shed light on the need to strengthen capacity in the field of telecommunications facilities and use, emphasizing the need for remote sensing technologies for sustainable development, without discrimination. Further, it was important to obtain remote sensing data in good time and at a reasonable price.
On other issues, he said Syria had hosted a seminar on outer space and archaeology in Damascus, as well as another United Nations programme for space activities. His delegation also welcomed the projects for Western Asia and North Africa. Natural disasters had brought to the forefront the need to continue work on an international system to manage disasters through outer space means. It was essential to adopt new scientific initiatives through an exchange of information.
On weaponization, he said the introduction of weapons into outer space would undermine the idea of using outer space for peaceful purposes. Syria was concerned about nuclear proliferation issues, as demonstrated by its membership in the Disarmament Conference in Geneva.
YERZHAN KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan) said his country was home to the renowned Baikonur space launch pad, had created favourable conditions for developing science and technology, and promoted cooperation with other countries in outer space. Kazakhstan also had participated in international space projects, including those using space science and technologies for environmental protection, and cooperated with the Russian Federation in the use of space, aviation and remote Earth sensing technologies. A Government programme for space activities through 2020 was also under development.
He said Kazakhstan had become the second country in the Commonwealth of Independent States to operate its own satellite, with the 18 June 2006 launch of the national geostationary communications satellite KazSat. The second satellite, KazSat-2, would be launched in 2008. The country had established a ground control complex. Other projects in the works included the Baiterek rocket complex, to be completed with regional partners in 2008, and the potential development of the Ishim space complex, to launch spacecraft for civilian applications. He applauded the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space report recommendations to promote regional and interregional cooperation to ensure sustainable development, adding that the Committee should play a key role in information dissemination.
N.L. SIEGEL ( United States) said that, whereas other organs, such as the First Committee, held competence to consider disarmament issues relating to outer space, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space offered a forum focused on promoting cooperation and sharing of the benefits from space exploration. Addressing the work of the Committee and its subcommittees, he noted that the Working Group on Nuclear Power Sources in Space had made significant progress in “identifying potential implementation options for establishing an international technically-based framework of goals and recommendations for the safety of planned and currently foreseeable applications of nuclear power sources”. Another working group had reached consensus on a space debris mitigation document, which was supported by his country.
He said the Heliophysical Year 2007 would be a truly international endeavour, with countries from every region of the world planning to host instrument arrays, provide scientific investigators or offer supporting space missions. The effects of solar activities and space weather phenomena on daily life, the environment and space systems were becoming more apparent. The recommendations of the Committee regarding establishing a platform for space-based information for disaster management and energy resource, known as the SPIDER programme, deserved consideration. His delegation did not object to proceeding with SPIDER, but believed it must be supported on the basis of voluntary contributions and could not have an impact on the regular budget of the United Nations. The United States agencies responsible for disaster early warning and mitigation would not contribute resources to SPIDER should it be established, but their products would still be made available, as they had been in the past.
Noting that the Committee’s Legal Subcommittee had made substantial progress on the practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects, as well as on a draft text on advantages of adherence to the Liability Convention, he said, by focusing on the benefits of adhering to the Outer space treaties, the Subcommittee had helped to promote the existing international legal framework governing outer space. The Committee had also made substantial progress in considering the spin-off benefits of space exploration and on strengthening its role in promoting international cooperation to ensure the peaceful use of outer space. The emphasis on education in the item dealing with space and society was an excellent opportunity for delegations to share information on national and international efforts and demonstrate to the general public how space activities could enrich their daily lives.
PIRAGIBE TARRAGO (Brazil), speaking on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said outer space should be seen as the common heritage of all mankind, to be used for peaceful purposes for the benefit of all. That would require the commitment of the international community, in particular from those countries that had space capacity. Maintaining outer space for peaceful purposes, taking into account the needs of developing countries, should remain a priority for the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. That Committee should ensure the implementation of UNISPACE III recommendations, as well as work for the development of international space law.
He welcomed acknowledgement of the need to strengthen international cooperation on water resources and looked forward to consideration of the draft guidelines for space debris mitigation next year. As for implementation of the UNISPACE III recommendations, he welcomed work on universal access, sustainable development actions and alternative sources of financing. He said many Caribbean countries were still struggling with the consequences of recent hurricanes. Research into natural disasters was of vital importance. He supported in that regard the space programme of the International Meteorological Organization. MERCOSUR would not oppose consensus on SPIDER, but the initiative should supplement other initiatives, such as the Global Earth Observation System. He welcomed the inclusion of an item on international cooperation for the use of geospatial data for sustainable development in the Outer Space Committee’s agenda.
He said human capacity-building and increasing international cooperation were fundamental in the use of earth observation data. He welcomed the fact that the Legal Subcommittee had focused on existing treaties on outer space and the benefits it could bring to all. Underscoring the need for creating effective regional cooperation in order to train human resources, he welcomed the Fifth Space Conference of the Americas in Ecuador. The main topics had included: development of space law; remote learning; tele-medicine; disaster mitigation; and protection of cultural heritage. The Sixth Space Conference of the Americas would be held in Guatemala in 2009.
MA XINMIN ( China) said militarization and weaponization of outer space ran against the mainstream trends aimed at peace, development and cooperation. Preventing those practices was a responsibility that no country could ignore, and the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space should improve the legal regime to prevent an arms race in outer space. Independent innovation and international cooperation were key to enhancing the peaceful uses of outer space. He hailed China’s partnership with the United Nations to create a space-based information for disaster management programme as a “concrete action” in implementing the recommendations of UNISPACE III.
His Government supported placing that programme under the United Nations Office of Space Affairs, with activities carried out by offices in Beijing and Bonn. China would commit free office space and staff support as soon as possible, as agreed. On regional cooperation, he said nine countries had signed the Convention on an Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization as of 31 July 2006 and five of them had completed domestic procedures of ratification. During China’s eleventh five-year plan (2006-2010), the country would focus on transforming its aerospace industry from experimentation and application to business and service, operating satellites in such areas as communication, navigation and remote sensing. It would also aim to cooperate in the areas of space technology application and space science.
K.P. KUMARAN ( India) said Member States must improve the results of space research for economic, social and cultural development, in order to meet the challenges in developing countries of improving agriculture, water resource management, education, public health and disaster management. The United Nations Programme on Space Applications was important for implementing the recommendations of UNISPACE III, especially in improving the capacity-building of developing countries to apply space technology. Also, India supported the proposed establishment of the SPIDER project, to function as an open network.
On a national scale, India had launched its most advanced communications satellite, INSAT-4A, to meet demand for direct-to-home television broadcasting requirements. In the last year, several tele-education, tele-medicine and Village Resource Centre networks had improved outreach of key socioeconomic initiatives, including the creation of 8,000 EDUSAT classrooms to train teachers and nurses. Regarding space-based systems for water and forest resource management, India was using remote sensing data for several water-based applications. Further, the establishment of at least 100 Village Resource Centres was planned by the end of 2006 to provide information in such areas as natural resources. In its international cooperation efforts, India had launched a connectivity mission with the African Union to provide tele-education, tele-medicine, e-governance and meteorological services, among other things.
A. ABIODUN (Nigeria) said the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space had recorded a number of significant achievements during its last session, including: the draft protocol on matters specific to space assets to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment; space debris; and the use of nuclear power sources in outer space; as well as on collaborative activities at the regional level among Member States. In that regard, he said Nigeria had, among other things, hosted the first African conference on space science and technology for development.
He said the Committee continued to address specific space application issues that were relevant to all countries, such as space and education, space and water and space and archaeology. He looked forward to deliberations on “space and society” and on “the use of space-derived geospatial data for sustainable development”. He was pleased to note that the Committee and its Scientific and Technological Subcommittee had agreed on a symposium on “the use of the equatorial orbit for space applications: challenges and opportunities”. That event would be of immense interest and benefit to those countries within the tropical belt.
He called on the Committee to “squarely address” the issue of non-attendance by a number of its permanent members, saying that there was no justification for a Member State to ask its regional partners to support its membership in the Committee and fail, year after year, to make any appearance whatsoever -– in some cases beyond a decade --– in the sessions of the Committee and its subsidiary bodies. Member States that were participating regularly as observers in the Committee’s activities deserved an honest response on that critical issue. He expressed his support of SPIDER and congratulated the Committee on developing a consensus text.
VIKTOR KRYZHANIVSKYI (Ukraine), aligning his country with the statement by Finland, said his country’s most significant tasks were to establish productive cooperation with other countries to promote the peaceful uses of outer space, and to strengthen the scientific and engineering potential of its domestic space industry. Noting Ukraine’s status as a producer of space launch vehicles and member of the circle of seven countries regularly launching space vehicles, he said efforts this year were concentrated on preparing Ukraine to participate in international space projects, and enhancing its business presence in the outer space services market.
Ukraine was concerned about space debris and was actively contributing to Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) efforts to address the global nature of the problem, he said. Further, the country was taking into account IADC recommendations in the design and use of its space launch vehicles. Ukraine was devoted to preparing a comprehensive United Nations convention on space law, as the regulatory functions of current international space law had weakened. With a view to building capacity in that field, Ukraine would host, in November, a “Status Applications and Progressive Development of the International and National Space Law” workshop that would tap local knowledge on the issue.
A. LYUBALINA (Russian Federation), noting the importance of using outer space for peaceful ends, said it was inadmissible to use outer space for the purposes of an arms stand-off. She voiced concern that peace had not fully been secured in outer space and said only one tool existed to prevent the introduction of arms into outer space, a situation that required urgent attention. To improve that situation, she called for the creation of an international legal framework that would reinforce the peaceful use of outer space.
She reiterated the Russian Federation’s adherence to the development of space law and drew attention to the Russian initiative to help prepare a progressive Convention on space law. Her delegation considered the Russian proposal justified and timely. The need to strengthen that branch of law was clear, and she hoped to see an increase in the number of supporters of that initiative.
HOSSEIN MALEKI ( Iran) said space technology could be used in solving the problems of a global and regional nature, in such areas as economic and social development, particularly in disaster management, provided that outer space was maintained for peaceful purposes and not for military competition. As a heritage of mankind, outer space should remain devoid of any threat against humanity and it should be used by all countries, irrespective of the size of their economic or scientific development. He urged all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to the goal of preventing an arms race in outer space. There was a big gap between developed and developing countries in science and space technology. That gap should be bridged by sharing information and through international and regional cooperation.
He said that, his country, attaching great importance to enhancing international and regional cooperation, had established the Iranian Space Agency, which could play a significant role in enhancing the international cooperation in the Asia Pacific Region. In addition to the seminars and workshops organized, the Agency had implemented a number of national projects on such issues as a study of groundwater distribution, the Persian Gulf pollution, and Caspian Sea surface-level changes. Space technologies could also play a significant role in the reduction of natural disasters. Space science and technology could also assist in efficient management of natural resources in general, and water resources in particular.
The application of space science and technology, particularly remote sensing and earth observation, could extensively improve water management and exploitation of water resources for different purposes, he continued. He fully supported, in that regard, application of space science and technology in the field of water management in arid and semi-arid lands, water pollution monitoring, monitoring the environment of the wetlands, mitigation of effects of extreme water-related events, and scientific understanding of the water cycle.
Rights of Reply
The representative of Germany, exercising the right of reply to statements by the representatives of the United States, India, China and Nigeria, who had commented on the issue of disaster management and SPIDER, said disaster prevention and management were a priority for Germany. Space-based methods, in that regard, had a high level of importance in Germany’s remote sensing programme and Germany had welcomed the agreement reached in the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, concerning the creation of SPIDER. By its offer to host an office in Bonn, her Government would strongly contribute to the initiative. SPIDER would contribute to satellite-based disaster management and improve prevention capabilities on a global scale.
All countries and relevant international and regional organizations would have access to space-based information, she continued. The programme would build a bridge between space communities and end users. SPIDER should work closely with end-users, particularly with developing countries, and would establish unique cooperation with the Group on Earth Observations and other initiatives. She confirmed, after in-depth consultations, that there would be no duplication of work between SPIDER and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems. For those reasons, Germany strongly supported SPIDER, as well as a contribution from the United Nations budget to its implementation.
The representative of Chile, commending major efforts undertaken by the countries of the Americas to determine the best methods for establishing regional cooperation in the area of application of space technologies and congratulating Ecuador on its excellent organization of the Fifth Conference of the Americas, said he was concerned that a number of debates there had not been compatible with the key objectives of the Conference, namely to move forward in a concerted manner to gain access to space technology. He was also disappointed in the lack of participation of one North American country, not the United States, in the Conference. As he had met the ambassador of that country during a social event during the Conference, he assumed that country’s priorities were different. He was also disappointed by the non-participation of United Nations agencies. He expressed support for the SPIDER programme, as well as for the Group on Earth Observations programme and congratulated China and other countries that had made significant progress in establishing regional space agencies for the Asian Pacific region.
Consideration of Question of Western Sahara
The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked for a postponement of the vote on the draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara, to allow for further consultations on the matter.
The representative of Algeria, speaking on behalf of the co-sponsors of the draft resolution (document A/C.4/61/L.5), responded positively to Finland’s request. He and the co-sponsors hoped that the Committee would adopt the draft by consensus, as had happened last year, because the text was, word by word, the same as last year’s text.
The representative of Morocco supported Finland’s request for a 24-hour postponement, in order to find a solution to the problem. Morocco was ready to seek consensus on the issue.
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